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Ever wondered why we love the legendary bad guys as much as the heroes? Or, in some cases even more. After the release of Dark Knight, facebook was flooded with profile pictures of Heath Ledger as The Joker. Surprisingly, there were hardly any posters of Batman, the protagonist. Even in Star Wars, the evil Darth Vader gets nearly as much fan following as Yoda the wise green guy. The same thing happens with anti-heroes in most comics and movies. Everyone loves Gambit, the mysterious X-Man who walks the line between good and evil. Of course, the original awe-inspiring super-villain was Professor Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes’ greatest adversary. I’ll admit it, I felt very sad when Moriarty fell off the cliff, and half-hoped he would have a dramatic return just like Holmes.
The question is, why are we so obsessed with malevolent and often sadistic characters? Is it because the overwhelming nobility of heroes makes us uneasy? Let’s face it, we don’t really connect with Superman’s annoyingly brawny way of dealing with things; and his naïve trust even in the promises of foes gets on my nerves. The Joker, however, is mad, which makes him a perennially out-of-the-box schemer. His superpower lies in the mind, in his ability to reveal the darkest aspects of people. In a way, his love of chaos and carnage reflects the complexities of our own mind, where animalistic urges constantly seek to overthrow the logic and sanity upon which we base our lives. The heroes remain jocks who flash sparkly teeth, if they do not have weaknesses that make them one of us. Heroes must fall from their pulpits once in a while, if they are to truly appeal to the masses. Also, the more obvious reason for heroes to have nemeses is the need to show victory of good over greater evil. That is why villains must always be more powerful than our heroes. Conan Doyle ranked Moriarty’s intelligence above Holmes, pitting the opponents in an unequal chess game. At the end of the day, we love villains because they are inherently a part of ourselves. But we hate to see them conquer, because it shows that the negativity within us also has the power to corrupt. It is true that in reality there is much more evil in the world than good, which gives the victory of justice much greater importance. Ultimately, the battle between good and evil is an infinite loop, and the outcome is never absolute.
“This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You are truly incorruptible, aren’t you? You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won’t kill you because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.” – The Joker